Saturday, December 7, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 49

Scott D. Parker

You know what you get when you write a book outside of November and NaNoWriMo? Nothing special. Just writing a book.

So, as of last Sunday, it is now December, but the novel I started on 1 November as part of National Novel Writing Month was not complete. I kept writing, as an author does. Because, you know, the novel's not finished.

I had expected to be finished by yesterday--my birthday!--but I'm still not done. Good thing, though. The story's taking on a life of its own, jetting into a direction I didn't anticipate.

But already, my mind's sifting through the possibilities. All during this writing process, I'm literally writing into the dark, experiencing the story as future readers will. But my mind keeps looking ahead, and in yesterday's session, it took a turn I never expected.

Which is what making writing stories this way so fun for the author.

Knives Out

As part of my birthday celebration, I saw the new Rian Johnson movie Knives Out yesterday. Our own Claire Boothe reviewed it last Sunday. I intentionally stayed away from it (I've now read it) and everything before I saw the movie. Didn't want even a hint of a spoiler.

Boy, is that one delightful film. I knew going in there would be many a clue and we viewers would be able to sift through the evidence on our own to see if we could guess the ultimate solution. Well, I had a theory...that proved false. But I caught a few things, even tapping my wife's arm (more than once) and say this or that.

I really enjoyed it. The film was a nice 21st Century twist on the traditional murder mystery whodunit. Ain't gonna say more about it other than the cast was fantastic. Daniel Craig, however, was really, really good. Bravo to Rian Johnson who wrote and directed this film. He's now put his unique spin on time travel stories (Looper), Star Wars (The Last Jedi), and whodunits (Knives Out). I enjoy his take on stories, and he's now one of those writer/directors that I'll always watch, no matter the genre.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Beau on Zero Saints

Today, Beau Johnson takes a look at Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias.

Enforcer and drug dealer Fernando has seen better days. On his way home from work, some heavily-tattooed gangsters throw him in the back of a car and take him to an abandoned house, where they saw off his friend's head and feed the kid's fingers to...something. Their message is clear: this is their territory, now. But Fernando isn't put down that easily. Using the assistance of a Santeria priestess, an insane Puerto Rican pop sensation, a very human dog, and a Russian hitman, he'll build the courage (and firepower) he'll need to fight a gangbanger who's a bit more than human.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Best Go-Kart Ever

It’s that time of year when I think back o the best Christmas gifts I ever got.

This is me, in the late seventies. Re-enacting a scene from “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?” with my father as I drove the Go-Kart I’d gotten for Christmas at him,

Noticeable is the open doors of some of the houses; nobody locked their doors then. Also the almost total absence of cars. I count three, and the sort of red van that was almost invariably used for bank job getaways in British Crime Shows on TV. My dad still lives in the same house, in Dublin, a city that has redefined the phrase upwardly mobile, and faced the terrifying hangover of hubris, but which still, when I return nowadays, finds the entire street seemingly double parked with luxury drives.

I loved that go-kart, and would give the other kids rides – them standing on the rear axle and hanging off the back of the seat. Until the seat snapped off, and the axle started buckling, at which point I was heartbroken.

I guess I should have learned that sometimes, even if it runs the risk of losing you friends, you need to learn to say “No,” before your heart is broken. It would be many more years before I learned that lesson.

But my dad fixed the axle. I think a mallet may have been involved, but since perfectly precise three point turns weren’t the most common manoeuvre in it, the fact that the kart steered “A bit bockety” was never an issue; the lack of a seat, however, was potentially huge, until my dad made a four-sided box from chipboard, lined it with red shag pile carpet (taken, I’m told, from a patch of my bedroom carpet over which he then built a bookcase to hide the gap), and screwed it to the frame, and I had an instant couture kart.

And the fact that I just used the phrase couture kart probably explains why I never had many friends as a kid growing up on the not-so mean (but car-less) streets of south Dublin in the 1970’s.

It wasn’t the best Christmas present ever - picking one from the panoply I have received and continue to receive is an impossible choice. But it hints at the best present ever: Love. Creativity. A family that could fix a broken axle and a smashed seat and get across the lesson: it doesn’t have to be mint condition box-fresh or even cohesive. Whatever it is, it just needs to get you where. You want to be, and to do so in a way that makes you know you’re loved.


Derek Farrell was raised in Dublin (no shit, Sherlock) and lives, now, in London where he writes The Danny Bird Mysteries, “Death of a Diva,” “Death of a Nobody,” “Death of a Devil,”and  “Death of an Angel” can all be purchased from the usual e-stores or directly from the publisher here The fifth, “Come to Dust,” is available exclusively as a free download from his website . The sixth – Death of a Sinner – is a Fahrenheit69 Tete Beche Novella and is published in a joint edition with Jo Perry’s “Everything Happens.” It can be purchased here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Makes Total Sense? No. Enjoyable? Yes.

I'm wondering why exactly I enjoy the series Goliath as much as I do.  I just finished watching season 3 on Amazon, and while I would never recommend it as a show to watch for its verisimilitude, it's a show that over the course of 3 years has only become odder and more fun with each new season.  It started out as a somewhat skewed but still fairly plausible legal thriller style show, yet another from David E. Kelley, but by now, Goliath has morphed into something more idiosyncratic.

Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride holds it all together, of course, and this year he features in a nutty quilt of a plot that makes a few overt references to the world of David Lynch. Sherilyn Fenn's death kicks off the season, and a casino Billy spends much time in has a lounge singer who croons a tune or two heard in Blue Velvet.  Usually, Lynch references in films and shows make me roll my eyes, but Goliath does it in a clearly playful spirit that brought a little smile to my face.  And in fact, with its group of rich men who gather at times in the casino's secret room to smoke something potent, with its evocation of some odd mental states, with its somewhat jumbled (but for a reason) chronology that creates its own disorientation in the viewer, the season has a slightly hallucinatory character.  Then there's the whole thrust of the central plot, which revolves around water rights.  This is California, and when you think water rights and a crime story, you can't help but think of Chinatown.  But California has water issues now as much as it ever did, so that's a subject that never goes out of style.  

Where Goliath is most fun, though, is with its characters, a gallery of eccentrics, some quite driven in their particular obsessions, some more laissez faire about life.  Each season has had a sexual undertow that's been intriguing, with the season's heavies having decidedly odd sexual preferences.  William Hurt's character had his in season 1, Mark Duplass quite memorably had his in season 2, and in season 3, we get a brother-sister duo, Dennis Quaid and Amy Brenneman, who have enough issues between them, and a love-hate relationship, that should have had them in therapy for years.  Both actors play their roles to the hilt. The show also gives us entertaining turns from Graham Greene -- full of subtle menace here -- Griffin Dunne, Beau Bridges, Paul Williams, and the too rarely seen these days Ileana Douglas, who's funny as a bar fly.   Besides Thornton, the other cast regulars return as well, with Nina Arianda as harried and amusing as ever.

How to say it? Goliath isn't a show I'd recommend to anyone to watch if they want a crime show that's heavy on social realism or airtight storytelling.  But over three years, it's carved out a niche of its own with a distinct flavor, and I find I enjoy going with its flow.  It lets itself be oddball without going overboard about it, and the actors clearly relish the characters they get to play. 

I also have to say I'm glad next season will be its last.  Ostensibly that will bring closure to the series and four seasons of Goliath sounds just about right.  No need to kill the buzz by overdoing it. 


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review: Knives Out

I went to the movies yesterday and saw Knives Out, the new Agatha Christie-ish murder mystery. It was Thanksgiving dinner for mystery fans—time-honored favorites and those one or two surprises that someone insists on bringing even though you think there’s enough of the traditional stuff.
Let’s start with the favorites. There’s a creaky old manor house, an extended, animosity-soaked family gathered for a special occasion, a famous detective, and a dead patriarch. I’m not giving anything away; the body is shown about 60 seconds into the film. It’s director Rian Johnson saying, “This is what we’re all here for; let’s get right to it, shall we?”
Knives Out: Rated PG-13 for Daniel Craig’s Southern accent, a mask-free Captain America, and an always bad-ass Jamie Lee Curtis.
The surprises to the traditional include Marta Cabrera, a young Latinx nurse hired to help care for Harlan Thrombey, the aforementioned patriarch and an aged mystery novelist. Marta (Ana de Armas) is more than just the help; everyone insists she’s “family.” But she’s not. There’s a scene where family members fall into arguing over politics, pulling Marta into the room so she can self-consciously stand there as they make their points about immigration policy. She’s a human face only when they need her to be. 
I couldn’t help but compare Knives Out with Gosford Park, the Robert Altman’s 2001 masterpiece that had all the same standard elements. The manor house (this time in England), the extended family, the dead patriarch. In that movie, the wine glasses clink gently, the help are ignored (except when they’re being seduced), the accents are proper, and there’s a measured pace to everything.
There’s nothing refined about Knives Out. No time is wasted getting to the death, relatives swear at one another, there’s a fistfight (kind of), and everyone is proudly “self-made.” It is, in a word, American. And it’s a twisty puzzle of a mystery that takes the right things seriously, creates the right hero, and has a hell of a lot of fun with everything else.
*One final thought, without spoilers—the patriarch says something to one of the characters in a flashback midway through the movie. It casts an entirely different light on the ending, something that didn’t occur to me until I was writing this review. If you’ve seen the movie, DM me on Twitter @clairebooth10. I’d love to talk about it. 
 A more refined Knives Out poster and its spiritual twin, the one for Gosford Park.